Monday Morning Math: Dorothy Lewis Bernstein


Happy birthday Dorothy!  Today is the 108th birthday of the first woman to be president of the Mathematical Association of America.

Dorothy Lewis Bernstein was born on April 11, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois.  Her mother, Tillie Loyev (changed to Lewis upon immigration to the US), was born in Ukraine and her father, Jacob Louis Bernstein, in Russia.  Her parents married in Milwaukee (where her mother’s family lived) in 1912 and then moved to Chicago where her father was a dairy farmer.  Dorothy was the oldest of six children and grew up in Chicago and Wisconsin.  

Dorothy earned her BA and MA in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin Madison [the alma mater of yours truly.  Go Badgers!] and her PhD from Brown University.  She worked at several universities, including Berkeley where work was being done to support the army during World War II.  She then spent 14 years just down the street from Naz at the University of Rochester(!!!).

While at Rochester she was asked by C. B. Tompkins, who was working at Engineering Research Associates on a contract from the Office of Naval Research, to undertake a study of the current state of knowledge of existence theorems in partial differential equations. As she explained in her 1978 AWM talk, “some of the proofs could be used as basis for the computational solutions of non-linear problems that were just being tackled by high-speed digital computers.” Her 1950 book with Princeton University Press was the result of this undertaking. 

Supplementary Material for Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhDs

In 1959 she began working at Goucher College in Maryland, where she stayed 21 years.  Dr. Bernstein was a prominent researcher, and was active in several organizations both before and after her retirement in 1979.  She was the vice president for the Mathematician Association of America in 1972-73 and president (the first woman elected to that position) 1978-80.  She passed away in 1988 at the age of 73.


One Response to “Monday Morning Math: Dorothy Lewis Bernstein”

  1. Carnival of Mathematics 204 – Sophie the Mathmo Says:

    […] of America. I love learning more about Mathematicians I’m less familiar with, so enjoyed this blog post about […]

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